It’s no secret to Latinx that a vast number of us are Black or Afro-Latinx. However, most non-Black Latinx enforce systems of Black erasure and white supremacist values within our very own communities and promote daily racist microaggressions towards Afro-Latinx or even darker-skinned Latinx. White-washing has historically protected lighter-skinned Latinx and was an opportunity that many of our ancestors benefitted from, leaving white and even brown Latinx in positions of privilege today. Would actively unlearning, relearning, and uplifting Afro-Latinx voices undo the damage that we ourselves and our ancestors have caused?
Most of my American friends seem very aware of my home country’s blatantly racist history. The ones who are most unaware, however, are the very people who live there. It is widely unknown that the population was 50% Black in 1778. It is also widely unknown that the country itself is responsible for the disappearance of the Black community. Upon further investigation, I discovered that most of my relatives were utterly in the dark. Thankfully, my uncle’s partner, a tour guide in Buenos Aires, offered some fascinating insight.
The history of slavery in Argentina covered two points. That slaves were brought into the continent through ports in Río de la Plata, and that Argentina was one of the first slave-owning countries to begin to abolish slavery between 1813 and 1853 gradually. But what came after their freedom could be considered full-blown genocide.
In order to uphold the illusion that the nation is and always has been white and European, Argentine schools do not teach their students of the swift disappearance of the Afro-Argentine population. It was perpetrated by cholera outbreaks in 1861, 1864, and yellow fever in 1871. A disproportionate number of Black soldiers served in the region’s wars. By the turn of the 19th century, those left were the Black women who mixed with the enormous influx of European immigrants. These immigrants were prioritized in the 1853 Constitution, thus ensuring the whiteness of the current 97 percent white population of the nation today. In fact, the nation even failed to recognize Afro-Argentines in their censuses until 2010.
These historical truths are kept in the dark. The government’s efforts to include Afro-Argentines and their history have been feeble at best. The population remains unaware of their country’s racist baggage. Perhaps daily racism in Argentina would not exist if its citizens were taught to be actively anti-racist from a young age. It may decrease both the blatant and subtle racism perpetuated in day-to-day life: the microaggressions, racial biases, and misinformation that manifests in their vernacular, actions, and judgments. This education would allow the understanding of the weight and the trauma that these cultural practices bring upon Afro-Latinx and Black folx in general.
Latinx Gen Z and millennials must commit to unlearning and relearning, abolishing their racist slang, and encouraging others to follow. I call on my fellow non-black Argentines, Latinx, South Americans, and Hispanics to hold your countries and governments accountable. It’s time to speak to our families about their privilege and urge them to unlearn, relearn, listen, and show up for our own community. Latinidad is not a race; it is a history, a family, a culture. To preserve its best parts, we must undo our mistakes and advocate for a future that prioritizes all of us.